Darwinbox, Microsoft and the Future of Enterprise HR

Explore the dynamic collaboration between Darwinbox and Microsoft, shaping the future of Enterprise HR. Uncover innovative solutions, cutting-edge technology, and strategic insights that redefine the way businesses manage human resources.

Brett Ungashick
OutSail HRIS Advisor
July 4, 2023
user comparing HRIS systems

Microsoft made a splashy investment announcement this week. And no, we aren't referring to the OpenAI deal.

Microsoft and Darwinbox announced a strategic partnership this week in a three-pronged deal that includes:

  • An investment from Microsoft into Darwinbox
  • A joint go-to market strategy that will see more cross-selling between Darwinbox's HRIS and Microsoft's CRM, ERP and other enteprise products
  • And, a product roadmap that will further intertwine Microsoft and Darwinbox products across the entire employee experience

Why Microsoft Would Make This Bet

Microsoft has been on an MBA business case-worthy hot streak the last few years, with Satya Nadella rapidly becoming one of the most successful and admired CEOs in the world.

When Nadella took over in 2014, Microsoft was facing significant headwinds from younger technology companies like Google, Dropbox and Box - who were cutting into their market leadership as an enterprise service provider and best friend to CTOs.

During his tenure, Nadella has placed a number of strategic bets on two of the three major enterprise software verticals: customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and human resources information systems (HRIS).

On the CRM side, Microsoft acquired legacy CRM platforms and used that market expertise to launch Dynamics CRM. Dynamics was then integrated with other Microsoft products, such as Office 365 and LinkedIn, to create a powerful, integrated solution for sales, marketing, and customer service.

Microsoft also invested heavily in Dynamics 365, a cloud-based ERP platform that integrates with other Microsoft products, such as Office 365 and LinkedIn, to provide businesses with a comprehensive solution for managing their financials, operations, and customer data.

However, on the HRIS side of their business, Microsoft had been nibbling at the edges without actually jumping in to the heart of the industry. They made the LinkedIn acquisition which gave them some recruitment capabilities, and they rolled out Viva and Teams which created more workplace collaboration.

Despite those efforts, it looked like Microsoft didn't want to get fully into the messy HRIS business of compliance, labor laws, payroll processing and tax filings - instead, content to let Workday, ADP, SAP and Oracle own that vertical.

This is what makes the Darwinbox partnership announcement so significant. HRIS was the glaring gap in Microsoft's quest to own the entire enterprise workspace, and now that gap can start to get filled by this partnership.

And it's not just that it made sense for Microsoft to make any HRIS bet, it's that this particular HRIS bet is one that could be especially fruitful.

The enterprise HRIS industry simply doesn't see a lot of new entrants to the market very often. Workday - the sexy, tech-friendly, market leader - was founded two years before the iPhone. SuccessFactors - SAP's HRIS platform - has been in the market for 22 years.

These solutions are still dominant players with large moats because of just how complicated enterprise HR management can be, but their ability to be truly cutting edge is hindered by their age and the technology infrastructure that they're built on.

By betting on Darwinbox, a platform that was founded in 2015, Microsoft has hitched their HRIS wagon to a company that is better set-up for success in the new world of work and a platform that is built on the most modern principles of interoperability, no-code automation and AI-powered recommendations.

Darwinbox still needs to prove themselves in the North American market, especially with the complex web of US payroll, labor and tax regulations, but they're looking like the most promising enterprise solution to enter this market in a decade, so you can understand why Satya sees this as Microsoft's best opportunity to fill their HRIS gap.

Why Darwinbox Would Enter This Partnership

While Darwinbox has received high praise from analysts and industry insiders, they are still a relative unknown in the massive North American HRIS market.

The partnership with Microsoft gives Darwinbox immediate credibility to say that "We are the only HRIS that Microsoft has ever invested in." Beyond that credibility, it appears that there will be cross-selling opportunities available to Darwinbox that can take advantage of the deep relationships Microsoft has already developed with enterprise software buyers.

There is no shortage of CTOs and IT leaders who want their entire business operations to be run through Microsoft. We often hear this in customer engagements when buyers say "We also want to look at Microsoft's HRIS."

The problem has been that there really isn't a "Microsoft HRIS" to look at. Sure, Viva has some talent management features and Dynamics can do a little bit of HR reporting, but these are not true HRIS platforms and those solutions quickly lose out to more robust, established HRIS competitors.

Now, Darwinbox can be the preferred answer when CTOs ask for the "Microsoft HRIS", which gives the IT leadership the consistency they look for in their systems, without shortchanging the functional capabilities that the HR team needs too.

Beyond the credibility and cross-selling opportunities, I believe this partnership also gives Darwinbox the ability to narrow their focus in the coming years.

As we've seen with Workday, once a company finds success in the enterprise HRIS space, it can be tempting to start moving into new verticals (ERP/Financials in Workday's case). While Workday has had some initial success with their Financials products, this shift in focus has led to an abandonment of their core audience: HR professionals.

As Workday's brand, marketing and innovation moves from CHROs to CFOs, the area that was once their greatest strength (HR) is starting to become more vulnerable.

This is pure speculation on my part, but this partnership could allow Darwinbox to avoid the temptation of entering new verticals, since they can refer Dynamics products in, instead. And if this partnership allows them to stay focused on HR and the employee experience, the partnership could give them an even higher likelihood of making a large dent in the enterprise HRIS space.

What is the collaboration between Darwinbox and Microsoft about?

Answer: The collaboration between Darwinbox and Microsoft involves a strategic partnership that includes an investment from Microsoft into Darwinbox, a joint go-to-market strategy for cross-selling between Darwinbox's HRIS and Microsoft's CRM, ERP, and other enterprise products, and a product roadmap to further integrate Microsoft and Darwinbox products across the entire employee experience.

Why did Microsoft choose to invest in Darwinbox?

Answer: Microsoft recognized the strategic importance of the HRIS market and identified Darwinbox as a promising player in the industry. By partnering with Darwinbox, Microsoft aims to fill the gap in its enterprise workspace offerings and leverage Darwinbox's modern HRIS platform to enhance its overall suite of enterprise solutions.

What makes Darwinbox a suitable partner for Microsoft?

Answer: Darwinbox stands out as a modern HRIS platform founded in 2015, built on principles of interoperability, no-code automation, and AI-powered recommendations. Its innovative approach to HR management aligns with Microsoft's vision for the future of work, making it an ideal partner to address the evolving needs of enterprise customers.

What benefits does the partnership offer to Darwinbox?

Answer: The partnership with Microsoft provides Darwinbox with immediate credibility and cross-selling opportunities. It allows Darwinbox to position itself as the preferred HRIS solution within the Microsoft ecosystem, leveraging Microsoft's deep relationships with enterprise software buyers and expanding its market presence in North America.

How does the partnership benefit customers of both Darwinbox and Microsoft?

Answer: Customers of Darwinbox and Microsoft benefit from a more integrated and comprehensive suite of enterprise solutions. The collaboration enables seamless interoperability between HRIS, CRM, ERP, and other business applications, streamlining workflows, enhancing productivity, and improving the overall employee experience.

2024 HRIS 
Landscape Report
Read OutSail's 2024 HRIS Report with write-ups on 30+ leading vendors
Thank you! You can download your report at this link
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Unsure about your software needs?
Use our HRIS Requirements Builder to quickly identify your must-have & nice-to-haves
Brett Ungashick
OutSail HRIS Advisor
Accelerate your HRIS selection process with free support
Thank you! Our team will reach out to you shortly
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Meet the Author

Brett Ungashick
OutSail HRIS Advisor
Brett Ungashick, the friendly face behind OutSail, started his career at LinkedIn, selling HR software. This experience sparked an idea, leading him to create OutSail in 2018. Based in Denver, OutSail simplifies the HR software selection process, and Brett's hands-on approach has already helped over 1,000 companies, including SalesLoft, Hudl and DoorDash. He's a go-to guy for all things HR Tech, supporting companies in every industry and across 20+ countries. When he's not demystifying HR tech, you'll find Brett enjoying a round of golf or skiing down Colorado's slopes, always happy to chat about work or play.

Subscribe to the HR Tech Download

Don't miss out on the latest HR Tech trends. Subscribe now to stay updated
By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy.
Thank you! You are now subscribed to the HR Tech Download!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.